O'Malley 'pro-choice,' aide says

Responding to scores of faxes sent by Planned Parenthood of Maryland about his position on abortion, a spokesman for Martin O'Malley said yesterday that the mayor is "pro-choice" and supports the state's laws on the issue.

Officials at Planned Parenthood said they sent 175 letters to the mayor this week, asking O'Malley to state his position on abortion. They said because he is a possible gubernatorial candidate in this year's election, he should be willing to state his position on a prominent statewide and national issue.

"Our activists have been asking for a while what Martin O'Malley's position is, and we've had to say we don't know," said Wendy Royalty, a Planned Parenthood spokeswoman.

Through a spokesman, O'Malley criticized the approach Planned Parenthood took to question him about his position. The spokesman said the mayor is "pro-choice" and supports abortion rights.

"In the words of President Clinton, he believes abortions should be safe, legal and rare," said Stephen J. Kearney, the spokesman.

He said O'Malley supported Maryland's 1992 referendum, which declared abortions legal without government interference until the time in pregnancy when the fetus might survive outside the womb. Later in pregnancy, abortion is allowed under the law only to save the life or health of the woman, or if the fetus is deformed.

The flood of letters to O'Malley's office occurred as the campaign for governor heats up. The race is expected to move into high gear after the General Assembly adjourns Monday and as Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend continues to seek support in her undeclared bid for the Democratic nomination.

It remains unclear whether O'Malley will run for governor, but his interest in the Democratic nomination has increased political pressure on him to respond to political issues. Yesterday, a group of Baltimore-area ministers urged O'Malley to stay out of the governor's race because they said they want him to fulfill his promises to the city.